One of the greatest things about progressive metal in 2012 is just how few limits or restrictions there are in what the bands often do. Want a little death metal mixed with jazz? How about some flamenco black metal? Just like much of prog rock became so formulaic by the mid-70’s, so too have so many bands gone down the well-worn path of classic symphonic metal a la Dream Theater. Yes, there’s a lot of great melodic metal being done these days and I love that sound as much as anyone, but it’s also extremely thrilling when bands do new things. Now, entering the more adventurous side of heavy progressive music, we have Germany’s Forces At Work, a band that’s been around since 2000 but has just released their first full-length album, Straight (after having put out three E.P.’s since their formation) and what a wild ride this beast is!
I guess the best description would be highly technical progressive thrash metal mixed with a ton of fusion elements (mostly in the guitar chord work and melodic lines), powerful, mostly harsher vocals and an oftentimes quirky off-kilter melodic sensibility. For band comparisons, I guess a good anchor point would be the U.S.’s amazing Between The Buried and Me and Italian avant-gardists Ephel Duath. The band is led by guitarist extraordinaire Adrian Weiss (he’s gotta be a total fusion-head given his technical prowess and very sophisticated harmonies), and the great harsh, yet surprising melodic vocals of Sebastian Wischermann. Almost every song is intense and is filled with so much energy – from the crazy rhythms to wild interlocking melodic lines and a ton of manic energy.
Have I also mentioned how much fun this record is? It’s really a blast – as crazy as the technical parts can be, the guys will throw in things like a circus melody in the middle of Keep Machin’ or an avant-prog vocal line to offset the wild melody on Dharma. That said, it does seem like the band has so many ideas that they’ve tried to pack as much muscle into each song as possible. It might just be me, but maybe they should try to ease up a bit on their next record and have a little bit of space on some of their songs. The surprisingly soft, almost ambient closer, Straight Into The Odd shows that the band can take it down a notch and still produce great music. I’m guessing that after 12 years, the band had so much energy they couldn’t wait to show the world what they’re made of and I hope they’ll be around for many years and continue to create more of their inventive brand of prog metal.
You can listen to Straight via the Spotify playlist below. If you like it and want to further support the band, the cd (which has fantastic artwork and a beautiful 12-page color booklet) can be purchased through the band’s website available via the link below.
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